Fall 2015

Passionate about Optics

Arizona NOW gift impact

It was a dream come true when I received my acceptance letter last year from the University of Arizona’s College of Optical Sciences. There are only a dozen schools in the United States with a graduate degree program in optics, and the UA is internationally recognized as the largest and highest-rated program.

Without a doubt, the UA was my school of choice.  

Weeks after getting my acceptance letter, I was surprised and grateful to hear I would receive a Friends of Tucson Optics Scholarship. Apart from being able to buy a new computer, software, and textbooks, I also wouldn’t have to worry about working a part-time job or teaching to pay for living expenses. It was a gift of economic stability. 

Today, I am entirely focused on a research project with Robert Norwood, who has been a great mentor. We are working on creating a more efficient system for collecting heat and converting sunlight into solar energy using a solar concentrator, which is a type of lens for focusing light. Our hope is to double the output of solar energy currently obtained through photovoltaic solar panels. My experience has been amazing and I have learned so much from Norwood, the other professors, and my colleagues. 

My passion for optics comes from its practical application. You can find a need for optics in almost every industry. I have an open mind about my future, but I know it will involve applying my knowledge of optics to conduct research and create new technology for the benefit of everyone.   

Liliana Ruiz Diaz is a graduate research assistant in the College of Optical Sciences. The Friends of Tucson Optics Scholarship is one of 27 new scholarships created because of the generosity of James Wyant, professor emeritus and founding dean of the college, who matched gifts at a four-to-one rate, giving $10 million alongside $2.5 million from more than 270 donors. The scholarship provides tuition funding and a $20,000 stipend to first-year graduate students.